If you haven’t seen Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, stop reading this, go to Netflix, and educate yourself. I’m not kidding, Go. GO NOW.
OK, now that you’ve seen the finest example of Berry Gordy producing a kung fu musical set in Harlem, we can pay proper homage to our dearly departed Vanity.
Vanity’s one of many women who fall into the “Prince protege” category, and she’s not much different than the rest. She was stunning, moderately talented, had legs that ended somewhere around her neck, and performed in a movie that’s adored by those of us who watched it to tatters in the 80s, and little understood by pretty much everyone else.
I was always more of a “Last Dragon” girl than a “Purple Rain” girl–probably because my mom nearly drove off the road once when she actually heard the lyrics to “Erotic City” and we were never allowed to watch it, and my dad loved both “Shogun” and Bruce Lee, so there you go.
“Purple Rain” may have had Morris Day, but “The Last Dragon” had Shonuff. It also featured the line “Directa your feetsa to Daddy Green’s Pizza,” not to mention Faith Prince, who sang a series of hilariously bad music videos, including one called “Dirty Books,” which I thought until just now was actually called “Dirty Bugs.”
But we’re not talking about all that. We’re talking about Vanity, she who had absolutely perfect skin, sculpted cheekbones, dancer’s legs, amazing hair, and a stunning smile. Her performances were all completely over-the-top, tempered with a comfortable magnetism that came through in every fabulous roll of her perfectly eyelined-eyes, every arch of her flawless eyebrows, every long-fingered Tina-Turner-like point at the camera. The concept that she hosted “Soul Train” was so convincing, I was always bummed she never actually had her own live dance show.
Alas, despite her magnetism and beauty (or because of it?), the 90s were not kind to her, seeing her through the crack addiction and subsequent kidney failure that eventually killed her a few days ago.
I hope your heaven is as amazing as Seventh Heaven was, and I hope you meet the Master in all his golden glory.